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Boston Suicide Prevention Hotline Experiences 'Increase In Demand' Due To Pandemic, Election

BOSTON (CBS) - A CDC study found that in June 2020, 11 percent of adults surveyed "seriously considered" suicide - a sharp uptick from years prior. Forty percent of adults reported some concerns about their mental health.

Several months later, with the pandemic threatening lives, another economic shutdown, a contentious presidential election days away, a sharp turn in temperatures and less opportunities for outdoor socialization, experts are concerned about people's mental health.

"We really have seen an increase in demand," said Kathy Marchi, the Director of Samaritans, a 24-hour suicide help hotline.

The organization has many new volunteers to help meet the calls and texts coming in.

"It does impact people who are feeling more isolated," Marchi said. "Sometimes anxiety is higher."

Marchi says there is always an increase in calls when there is an election looming or a traumatic national event like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon Bombings. With the election coming up, paired with COVID-19 raging on, it's "a perfect storm" for stress and anxiety.

Marchi also worries about the longer-term effects of the pandemic. A financial crisis she says could cause a serious mental health crisis. "So when I think about long-term -- 12, 18, or even 24 months — I think there will be an increase in people who are struggling and therefore, will be reaching out for support," she said.

The change in mental health isn't only for adults though.

"Kids being more anxious, depressed, lonely, and worried than ever before," said Dr. Gene Beresin, Director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Mass General Hospital. "Dealing with the uncertainty, the worry, what I call anticipatory grief, about losses and more losses, are making them more depressed and anxious and stressed."

Dr. Beresin says kids are experiencing loss right now at a time "for growth, separation, autonomy, and being on your own."

Instead, many are at home with their families, unable to fully socialize with their friends.

The stress of the election is also weighing heavily on young adults, too.

"Young people are more attuned to this election than I can remember since the 1960s," Dr. Beresin says.

He says particularly Millennials and Generation Z are experiencing stress from social movements, climate change, and other political issues.

So how can parents help their kids in this uncertain time?

"The first thing parents need to do is control your own anxiety," Dr. Beresin said. "Don't forget that human beings are pack animals. We need support."

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